Nothing tastes quite as good as a piece of chocolate. It’s one of my favorite indulgences – and one of the foods that I blame every time I gain weight. For those looking to savor sweet-tasting chocolate without seeing the numbers on your scale get larger, you should consider dark chocolate as your perfect sweet alternative.

chocoDark chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate

One of the major differences between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is – you guessed it – the milk. Dark chocolate is made from cocoa and sugar. To give milk chocolate its sweet taste, food producers add milk to the mixture. If you’re a fan of both, the taste difference is immediately apparent: milk chocolate is sweet whereas dark chocolate can have a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthy?

If you need chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth, then try swapping to dark chocolate to reap its many healthy benefits. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that dark chocolate had positive benefits in healthy adults: dark chocolate consumption was linked with a protective effect on the cardiovascular system, and a positive effect on endothelial function in adults (the part of your body responsible for things like fluid filtration and blood pressure control). Another study in the American Society for Nutrition had similar results, finding that the flavanols in dark chocolate decreased the risk of cardiovascular disease.

But if you’ve heard that dark chocolate is healthy, it’s probably for this reason: the flavonoids in dark chocolate are powerful anti-oxidants, useful in the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Cocoa flavonols were also found to improve blood pressure and lower cholesterol in a 2007 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, and to work with its phenylethylamine content to stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers.

Healthy… but…

While studies continue to show that dark chocolate has all sorts of health benefits, note that some dark chocolates are healthier than others. Look for ones that are at least 60% cocoa – those will have a higher flavanol content and more anti-oxidant benefits. And just because it’s healthy doesn’t give you permission to overdose – chocolate bars are still a source of fat. Limit yourself to one serving – about a square or two of your average dark chocolate bar.

One reason why cocoa is healthy is because it’s rich in polyphenols, just like red wine is. Nothing makes a better dessert than a square of dark chocolate and a glass of red wine.

This article The Bright Side of Dark Chocolate was originally published at Lean On Life and has been re-published with permission.

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